Research & Insights

Sustainable Investing & ESG Policy

Sustainable Investing and Environmental, Social, and Governance (“ESG”) integration are strategic priorities for Bridgewater. Our approach to these issues is shaped both by who we are as an investment manager—a global macro investor with a fundamental, systematic, and diversified approach to investment research and portfolio construction—and by how we partner with clients.

As a global macro, multi-asset manager, our first investment goal is to build a deep understanding of how economies and markets work. Because ESG issues are important drivers of global economies and markets, we have made it a strategic priority to deeply research these issues and to integrate that research into our investment process in a manner that is consistent with our systematic way of managing money. Since our investment logic (and thus individual positions) is predominantly driven by macroeconomic views, much of our ESG research takes a similarly macro-oriented approach that spans across economies, markets, and asset classes.

Our second goal is to convert the understanding we have built into high-quality solutions for our clients’ most important investment objectives. The framework we use for integrating ESG considerations into portfolios depends on the portfolios’ objectives. For portfolios with traditional return and risk objectives, we research ESG issues that we believe may have a material impact on financial performance, and this research is integrated as part of our broader investment research process. In addition to having return and risk objectives, we are increasingly partnering with clients who have added a third dimension to their investment objectives, namely impact. For these portfolios, we not only consider how ESG-related issues might affect return and risk but also how aligned these portfolios are to environmental and social outcomes.

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Our Co-CIOs for Sustainability, Karen Karniol-Tambour and Carsten Stendevad, are responsible for embedding sustainability considerations across Bridgewater’s investment processes and for designing and overseeing those portfolios that pursue both financial and impact goals. They co-chair our Sustainable Investing Committee, which is responsible for developing and governing Bridgewater’s investment research, portfolio construction, stewardship, standards and processes as it relates to ESG and sustainable investing. The Committee includes Daniel Hochman, Head of Sustainability Research, and is supported by a full-time, dedicated research staff. More broadly, Bridgewater’s Investment Committee is responsible for all aspects of the firm’s investment research process, and Karniol-Tambour is also a member of Bridgewater’s Investment Committee, ensuring ongoing integration across the firm’s investment priorities.

Our Sustainable Investing and ESG policy is directly overseen by our Sustainable Investing Committee and reviewed on a regular, ongoing basis. The Sustainable Investing Committee also provides quarterly business updates to the CEO as well as regular updates to Bridgewater’s Investment Committee, which may result in updates to the policy. The overall policy and any changes are periodically reviewed by Bridgewater’s legal and compliance team.

2-D Approach: Incorporating ESG to Achieve Financial Goals (Return and Risk)

Our starting point as investors has always been to understand how the world works. In service of that mission, we conduct deep, fundamental research across a broad range of topics—we believe markets and economies move for logical reasons that can be studied and understood, and that once we understand how something works, we systemize that understanding into our investment process and compound on it through time. We then convert that accumulated understanding into insights and portfolio solutions for our clients. In addition, important findings from our research are shared with our clients through our research and, in a number of cases, policy makers, and the public at large.

Given ESG considerations directly impact economic outcomes, the actions of policy makers, and market outcomes, we seek to deeply understand these topics by studying them as an integrated part of our research process. The goal of this research is to improve our investment process in pursuit of the best risk-adjusted returns. We prioritize topics that we believe are most pertinent to our macro investment approach—in other words, those topics we think have material financial (risk/return) relevance to our portfolios.

The impact of ESG issues, and therefore the urgency with which we seek to deeply understand them, has accelerated in recent years, given greater ramifications on fiscal and monetary policy, capital flows, and investor behavior. As such, we conduct extensive research on a wide range of topics related to ESG, such as the divergences between social and economic conditions, populism and social inequality, economic impacts of climate change, and the shift toward renewable energy and transition away from fossil fuels, to name a few. As we approach these issues, we leverage our 45+ years of experience in conducting deep, systematic, macro research.

In recent years we have researched how social issues are increasingly impacting economic and market outcomes. Several years ago, our researchers perceived that some aggregate economic statistics (e.g., total GDP growth) were masking the growing divergences across households of different income and wealth levels, and that missing these underlying dynamics could result in very inaccurate estimates of future spending. This perception led us to questions not only about the accuracy of our spending estimates, but also the effects of inequality on social cohesion, populism, and conflict, the answers to which are critical for understanding the investment landscape we are in, as these issues are increasingly influencing the decisions of fiscal and monetary policy makers. The results of this research have been incorporated into our investment systems and synthesized in the form of research reports shared with our clients. Examples include Populism: The Phenomenon and Social Conditions Are an Increasing Consideration for How the Economy Will Be Managed.

Furthering our understanding of environmental and climate change considerations is another priority for us. Climate change is one of most important challenges of our generation and addressing it will create significant shifts in the underpinnings of the global economy. A successful transition away from carbon will require a coordinated response from governments around the world, as envisioned in the Paris Agreement. From an investor perspective, climate change is a multi-dimensional topic that affects asset markets and economies through many different channels, such as direct physical effects (i.e., rising temperatures and related effects) as well as through the impact on transition-related regulation, investment, capital flows, changes to commodity consumption, etc. We have investigated a wide range of climate-related issues, such as the fundamental challenges with macroeconomic climate risk modeling, the importance of environmental policy relative to long-term physical risks, transition risks to assets, the impact of China’s shift toward renewable energy, the implications of the decline of coal, and the consequences of the shift towards electric vehicles for oil demand and investment.

As new understanding is uncovered, we seek to systemize and incorporate it into Bridgewater’s broader understanding of how markets and economies work and utilized to trade markets. For example, our research into low-carbon economy scenarios flows into our projections on the impact of demand for commodities (e.g., industrial metals and energy). We also seek to incorporate our understanding of ESG issues into our fundamental risk controls process. For example, we utilize our understanding of how our various asset holdings around the world will perform in a shift in climate scenarios (e.g., a faster transition to a low-carbon economy) to build risk caps tailored to climate risks.

In general, the research we publish provides the best window into the types of ESG-related research that we prioritize incorporating into our investment systems.

3-D Approach: Building Portfolios to Achieve Financial and Impact Goals

Alongside return and risk considerations, an increasing number of institutional investors are focused on a third dimension: the “impact” that their portfolios have on environmental and social outcomes. These investors explicitly want to direct capital towards the types of investments that they see as most aligned to their impact goals. As our clients started adopting such impact goals, we did what we have always done and partnered with them to find solutions to achieve their goals.

Using Bridgewater’s systematic research and portfolio engineering expertise, our Sustainable Investing team has prioritized examining how to construct scalable portfolios that address investors’ three-dimensional goals: return, risk, and sustainability impact. We approach the challenge of sustainable investing in liquid markets by applying Bridgewater’s fundamental, systematic, and diversified approach. Using this approach, we have built a systematic assessment process for evaluating whether securities are aligned with investors’ environmental and social impact goals. This process assesses the alignment of major public market securities (across asset classes) to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (“UN SDGs”). We have selected the alignment to the UN SDGs as the foundational framework for this approach because they are oriented towards positive environmental and social impact, are widely accepted by governments and asset owners, and contain specific and measurable indicators that help investors and researchers to assess whether a given entity is helping to achieve any of the 17 goals. Further, because of the central role that climate plays in the UN SDGs, many climate-related metrics inform our overall assessments, and therefore this approach achieves strong alignment with combating climate change.

We are pursuing a strategy that deploys this approach and is designed to be a strategic (beta) portfolio solution for investors who seek to achieve both financial and impact goals at scale. We chose to focus on building a strategic portfolio because ~90% of the risk in typical institutional portfolios is in the strategic asset allocation, so engineering a quality strategic asset allocation represents a crucial foundation for investors’ financial and impact goals. The strategy will be designed to generate a higher ratio of return to risk than traditional portfolios, while also being significantly more aligned to the UN SDGs than traditional portfolios. For more detail, see our chapter in the publication, Sustainable Investing: A Path to a New Horizon.

Stewardship and Corporate Engagement Policy

Our corporate engagement strategy is shaped by our multi-asset macro investment strategy and by the specific objectives of the portfolios (i.e., financial versus impact; long-only versus long/short strategy, where we do not consistently provide capital to any particular asset class or security). Our Sustainable Investing Committee oversees all matters relating to our stewardship policy at both the policy and implementation level.

Over the past six months, we have evolved our approach to corporate engagement in line with the buildout of our systematic sustainability assessment capabilities and will report annual progress beginning in 2022.

Issuer Engagement

We believe in the value of constructive engagements between companies and investors. Across our portfolios, our objective with these engagements will be to ensure that companies manage these ESG risks appropriately (including operational, regulatory, or reputational risks). Leveraging our systematic sustainability assessment process, we identify relevant ESG risks for our portfolios and targets for potential thematic engagement (e.g., modern slavery or climate risks). By leveraging our systematic process, our prioritization of our engagements can be data-driven and methodical.

In strategies with both financial and impact goals, we will leverage our sustainability assessment process to go a step beyond ESG risks to identify particular situations where targeted engagement might materially enhance the impact dimension of the portfolio. Our objective would be to identify weaknesses in company behavior and alignment to UN SDGs that if improved could lead us to allocate more capital towards them because it would better meet the objectives of the portfolio.

At the beginning of an engagement, we will work with our engagement services provider to identify specific objectives with the engagement which thus enables the evaluation of the efficacy of the dialogue on an ongoing basis. If the engagement efforts do not yield results in line with the objectives, we will evaluate our options including, but not limited to, terminating our long positions in these companies. Through our engagement services provider, we may choose to participate with other investors in conducting these engagements, but we will always retain our full discretion to act however we see fit and thus not acting as a formal consortium.

In April of 2021, we appointed Sustainalytics, a UN PRI signatory, as our engagement services provider; we were encouraged by their constructive approach to engagement whereby they “encourage companies to improve their approach to themes identified and agreed to by the parties, resulting in reduced reputational and operational risks and raising standards at the sector level.” Prior to that appointment, we conducted extensive due diligence on a number of advisors using a broad range of selection criteria including: overall approach to engagement, the ability for us to actively participate and shape the process, the analytical quality of the research, and the coverage overlap with our investment universe. As part of our selection of Sustainalytics as our engagement services provider, we shared our Sustainable Investing and ESG policy and held executive-level conversations regarding our philosophy and approach.

Voting

Across our strategies, we partner with Glass Lewis, a proxy advisor, to vote our shares on behalf of our clients, and voted 98% of eligible proposals last year. Glass Lewis is a signatory to the UN PRI, abides by the principles set forth therein, and considers ESG issues in the process of generating all of their recommendations. We have shared our Sustainable Investing and ESG policy with Glass Lewis and have had executive-level conversations with them regarding our philosophy and approach. In strategies with impact goals, we will direct Glass Lewis to employ their explicit ESG proxy policy, which emphasizes ensuring company alignment with the sustainability-oriented focus of the strategy.

Additional detail on our proxy voting practices can be found in our Proxy Voting policy, which is available in our Form ADV 2A on the SEC’s website or upon request.

Collaborative Engagement

Collaborative engagements have always been a core part of Bridgewater’s DNA, grounded in longstanding, research-oriented collaborations with our clients, including on topics relating to sustainable investing. Examples of such collaboration include sustainable portfolio construction along return, risk, and impact dimensions, macro ESG themes impacting economies and markets, climate change portfolio stress testing, and sustainability data evaluation.

As a research-driven firm, we seek out substantive collaborations and engagements with a number of external leaders, practitioners, and data providers on initiatives that align closely with our research objectives. For example, our Co-CIO for Sustainability (Karen Karniol-Tambour) is on the leadership council of the Impact-Weighted Accounts Project at Harvard Business School, we engage with the Brookings Institution’s Center for Sustainable Development, and support the Leaders’ Declaration of the Global Steering Group for Impact Investment.

In terms of external affiliations, Bridgewater is a signatory to the UN Principles for Responsible Investment, a supporter of TCFD, a core supporter of the Standards Board for Alternative Investments (formerly the Hedge Fund Standards Board), and a member of Focusing Capital on the Long Term, a non-profit that works to encourage a longer-term focus in business and investment decision-making.

Finally, we contribute our research and perspectives on sustainable investing to the broader public dialogue via external publications, conference series, and participation in industry surveys.

Other Considerations

Portfolio Exclusions

As it pertains to our asset holdings and exclusion lists, we ensure that we are compliant with all applicable sanctions. We do not have a firmwide exclusion list across portfolios that excludes investments solely for environmental or social impact reasons.

In strategies with explicit impact goals, we will impose stringent sustainability selection criteria to align with the UN SDGs. Our sustainability assessment approach seeks to identify the securities that are the most aligned to the UN SDGs rather than excluding only the least aligned.

Conflicts of Interest

We have policies in place to identify and mitigate conflicts of interest, which we describe in sections 6, 10, and 12 in the Form ADV Part 2A and our Code of Ethics, both of which are available upon request.

More specifically, Bridgewater aims to identify all conflicts of interest that could incentivize, or even give the appearance of incentivizing, Bridgewater employees to make decisions that may not be in the best interest of our clients.


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Bridgewater research utilizes data and information from public, private and internal sources, including data from actual Bridgewater trades. Sources include the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Bloomberg Finance L.P., Capital Economics, CBRE, Inc., CEIC Data Company Ltd., Consensus Economics Inc., Corelogic, Inc., CoStar Realty Information, Inc., CreditSights, Inc., Dealogic LLC, DTCC Data Repository (U.S.), LLC, Ecoanalitica, EPFR Global, Eurasia Group Ltd., European Money Markets Institute – EMMI, Evercore ISI, Factset Research Systems, Inc., The Financial Times Limited, GaveKal Research Ltd., Global Financial Data, Inc., Haver Analytics, Inc., ICE Data Derivatives, IHSMarkit, The Investment Funds Institute of Canada, International Energy Agency, Lombard Street Research, Mergent, Inc., Metals Focus Ltd, Moody’s Analytics, Inc., MSCI, Inc., National Bureau of Economic Research, Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, Pensions & Investments Research Center, Refinitiv, Renwood Realtytrac, LLC, Rystad Energy, Inc., S&P Global Market Intelligence Inc., Sentix Gmbh, Spears & Associates, Inc., State Street Bank and Trust Company, Sun Hung Kai Financial (UK), Totem Macro, United Nations, US Department of Commerce, Wind Information (Shanghai) Co Ltd, Wood Mackenzie Limited, World Bureau of Metal Statistics, and World Economic Forum. While we consider information from external sources to be reliable, we do not assume responsibility for its accuracy.

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